There are three new aircraft programs in flight test at the moment. Airbus’ A350XWB, Boeing 787-9 and the Bombardier CSeries. The chart below compares the progress in flight testing to date for the three aircraft. Clearly, the 787-9 and A350XWB are progressing at a much faster rate than the Bombardier CSeries, for which a delay of 9-15 months has been announced.
CSeries flight testing has gone slowly, and much of the flying performed to date has been in “direct mode” that bypasses the normally used fly-by-wire system controls. Since September, the CSeries has logged only about 75 hours of flight time. As the next two test aircraft are added, we expect the cumulative hours to accelerate faster. Given the slow speed of the flight test program, the delay in EIS is clearly understandable.
Next here are the numbers for the 787-9 through January. Boeing benefits with this program since the -9 is a derivative of the -8. One would expect this test program to run faster than the original 787-8 program. Boeing’s 787-9 has over 250 flights and over 700 flight hours since mid-September.
By comparison, Airbus’ A350 has done about 200 test flights and accumulated over 900 flight hours since its first flight in June 2013. For a brand new design the program appears to off to a great start. Like Bombardier it took four months to add a second aircraft to the test fleet. Interestingly, Airbus is flying airline style routes with its test aircraft to subject it to what could be considered “normal service”.
The A350 program appears to be well on track to meet its EIS date, and the 787-9, a second variant, also appears to be on track to meet its projected EIS date. While the CSeries program has stumbled, adequate time remains to meet its revised deadline EIS of 2H15.